Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Jill James on the Signifance of a Book's First Line

Welcome to the first day of our month-long Valentine Blog Tour featuring eleven authors from The Wild Rose Press! Yes. we have prizes, and they're explained at the bottom of this post. 

Author Jill James
My guest today is Jill James. Jill has loved to write since she first began putting on puppet shows in her garage for a nickel a person. Her first love was poetry until she picked up her first romance novel, LILY OF THE VALLEY, after that it was all romance. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense and paranormal romance. She is a member of RWA since 2004 and a member of the From the Heart chapter, Black Diamond chapter, Kiss of Death chapter, and ESPAN chapter. She has been writing romance for a few years with a few poetry contest wins and a published short story, Lunch Break. She lives in Northern California with her husband, the inspiration for all her heroes.

Significance of First Lines


That is the first line of Karin Tabke’s SKIN. We don’t know location. We don’t know the gender of the speaker. We don’t know the context of the line. It doesn’t matter. We want to read the next line to find out all those things. Even beginner writers know the importance of the first line in a book. For several years Karin Tabke had a First Line Contest at her blog. It was an intense competition to see who made the cut and got to add another line the next week. Even to the writers and readers who didn’t compete, the exercise showed the utmost importance to the first line of a book.

It used to be important to have a great line at the end of each page, each chapter. With the plethora of formats available in e-Publishing, I don’t see how you could ever know that the last line on a page was still a last line. Still, that last line of a chapter has almost the same significance of the first line of your book. That is the time the reader can put your book down. But, a great first line has them reading more and a great last line of a chapter has them reading to the next chapter to see what happens next.

Available February 16th
at The Wild Rose Press
A first line should draw you into the world the writer has created. Set the tone of the story. A first line should make you want to know what happens next. A first line should have you unable and unwilling to put the book back on the shelf and to try another.

From my upcoming release, TEMPTING ADAM, available Feb. 16th from TWRP:

Impossible-to-believe long legs ended in black, shiny, spiked high heels.

What first line has really drawn you into a book? Was it enough to make you buy the book?

The Wild Rose Press Valentine's
Month Blog Tour

Eleven TWRP authors have tag-teamed up for a blog tour of themes from the heart of writing. Meet some of the authors from TWRP and discover how their personal stories influenced their writing. Leave a comment on any of the blogs to enter to win a weekly prize. One commenter will be chosen from each blog each week. One random winner will be chosen from these 11 for a weekly prize. Weekly chosen commenters who don't win the weekly prize will automatically be entered for a grand prize at the end of the tour. Winners will be posted on all the blogs. The more blogs you comment on, the better your chances of winning because you could be chosen more than once each week!

First week's prize is $20 in gift certificates so the winner may buy the book he or she chooses. Second week's prize is $25 in gift certificates; third week is $30 in gift certificates; fourth week's prize is $35 in gift certificates. The grand prize for the Valentine Tour is $50. in gift certificates plus a bath set. Great prizes, right? Remember to leave your email so we can contact you if you're one of the winners!

Today's Blog Tour Itinerary
Wednesday, February 2nd

Meet contemporary YA an adult romance author Linda Kage at

Meet contemporary, paranormal, and historical romance author Caroline Clemmons at Please come comment and don't leave me all alone!

Meet historical and paranormal romance writer Lilly Gayle at

Meet Amie Louellen, author of fun and whimsical contemporary romance at

Meet erotic western historical author Jennifer Jakes at

Meet author AJ Nuest at

Meet author Lynne Roberts at

Meet paranormal romance author Maeve Greyson at

Meet author Amy Corwin at

Meet contemporary and paranormal romance author Jill James at

Meet romantic suspense author Kat Duncan at


Jill James said...

Caroline, thank you for having me here at your lovely blog.

Clancy said...

I wish I could think of one first line that caught me. Maybe I'm not paying attention :)
I know mine need to get better, so all the examples are helping. Good thoughts, thanks.

Jill James said...

Clancy, if a first line is really good it isn't something you consciously notice. It just catches you and catapults you into the story.

Bobbye Terry said...

Great blog, Jill. I tried something new in an upcoming suspense, where I had an open line that makes you curious and then three-quarters of the way through, the bad guy uses almost the same line, bringing you back to what has gone on before. Maybe I'm from the old school, but I still try to begin and end scenes with memorable lines. I agree the opening line is the most importsnt.

Celia Yeary said...

JILL--I so agree. I had the topic on my blog a couple of weeks ago--I always give my favorite first line of any book I've ever read--from LaVyrle Spencer's "The Hellion." The title alone is enough to catch our interest but the first line is memorable--
"It was well known around Russellville, Alabama, that Tommy Lee Gentry drove like a rebellious teenager, drank like a parolee fresh out, and whored like a lumberjack at the first spring thaw." I mean, how can anyone top that? Her novels are priceless keepsakes, each so unique and so emotional, it's difficult to explain. But this opening line has always stuck with me.
This is a great topic.Thanks--Celia

Jill James said...

Bobbye, thanks for hopping on our blog tour. I agree with beginning and ending a scene with a memorable line. Especially a hook-y one for the end of a chapter.

Jill James said...

Celia, thanks for bloghopping by. I agree. That first line is priceless.

Anonymous said...

Oh those first lines. I love them.
Ones that stick in my mind are Kristin Hannah: "Falling in love with a Catholic priest wasn't my smartest move."

"The roof fell in so I got up". It was a war time novel in Ireland. I read it 30 years ago and can't remember the author, but that line has stuck in my mine.

If Bruce Stafford had known someone was going to try to kill him, he would have called in sick.

Jill James said...

Ruby, powerful lines stay with you forever. Love the not going to work if you thought someone would kill you. LOL

Stephanie Suesan Smith, Ph.D. said...

First lines are crucial, and so hard to come up with. Sort of like the abstract of a research paper.

Stephanie Suesan Smith, Ph.D.

Jill James said...

Stephanie, I would think a research paper would be way harder than fiction.

Lilly Gayle said...

Great post, Jill. So many authors have great first lines, it would be hard to pick a favorite. A bad first line won't stop me from reading a book, but a great first line will stop me from putting it down without reading it.

Sandy said...

I agree with you that the first line of a chapter and the ending line are the most important. One more thing, I'll add is that the sentence starting and ending each scene is just as important.

Readers look for a spot to stop. Even if they for an important like fixing meal, helping kids with homework, etc. You want them to be in a hurry to get back to your story. Smile.

Jill James said...

Lilly, so true. An okay line won't stop me from getting a book if I like the subject and the back cover blurb makes me want it, but a good line brings a smile.

Jill James said...

Sandy, that is so true. Any pause in the story is a place to put the book down, don't let them.